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Meeker Co. receives early Christmas present in form of grant money

LITCHFIELD -- Meeker County got an early visit from Santa Claus.

Highway Engineer Ron Mortensen on Tuesday told the county commissioners the county will receive $291,000 from an additional federal grant for a two-year project to grade and overlay a 2.8-mile section of Highway 27 near Kingston.

The county originally was approved to receive $1,090,000 in federal highway funds for the $1,775,000 project, slated to begin in the spring.

The county got the original grant by proposing a compromise cost sharing for the project three years ago. Usually for these types of state aid highway projects, counties pay 20 percent of the cost and the federal government picks up 80 percent of the tab.

Because there wasn't enough federal money available in the region's federal funding pot, the county risked not being approved for any cost-sharing dollars.

"We were on the bubble," Mortensen said.

The county then proposed paying 40 percent of the project in exchange for a 60 percent cost sharing.

County Administrator Paul Virnig said the county wanted to be more competitive to have a "better shot" at getting the grants.

That offer was approved by the Area Transportation Partnership of the Minnesota Department of Transportation's District 8 in Willmar, and the project was put on the funding list for 2011. But Mortensen said bids for the 2011 construction year have come in lower than expected, which has resulted in additional money available for this region.

Although the partnership was not able to fund the project at the full 20/80 rate, they told the county they'd "fund the best we can," Mortensen said.

The extra money will allow the county to catch up with its funding. It has been "borrowing" money from future state aid payments to cover constructions costs, said Mortensen.

The county also received an additional $119,516 to build a bridge as part of the Koronis recreational trail. Once the bridge is completed this year work will be completed on a major portion of the trail around Lake Koronis.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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